Psychology Faculty

Mike Baker

Mike Baker
Professor of Psychology,
Neuroscience Coordinator
Email: mbaker@coe.edu

Education:
B.A., Coe College
M.S., Ph.D., Iowa State University

Research interests and academic interests:
My training and interests lie in behavioral psychopharmacology, including consequences of prenatal and postnatal exposure to drugs of abuse such as cocaine and amphetamine, mechanisms of reward and addiction, and sex differences in responses to drugs of abuse using the domestic chick model.

Classes taught at Coe:
I regularly teach Behavioral Neuroscience, Drugs & Behavior, and Learning & Behavior. I also rotate the rest of the psychology faculty for Advanced Experimental Psychology and Seminar in Psychology (topics have included Learning & Behavior Therapy, Addiction, Autism).  I occasionally teach Introduction to Biopsychology and in the past I regularly taught Statistical Methods & Data Analysis.

Special programs involved with at Coe:
I have been thePsychology Club and Psi Chi Faculty Advisor for about 15 years.  In that capacity I have coordinated trips to student research conferences.  I am also the Neuroscience Coordinator for the collateral major neuroscience

Personal interests: 
Even though I went to graduate school at Iowa State University, I’m a Hawkeye fan.  I enjoy movies and just about any kind of live music.  I love BBQ and the last few years, I have been smoking ribs, pork shoulders and beef briskets along with grilling typical BBQ fare.  I also enjoy taking my dog, Visha, for walks in our city parks

Favorite Coe memory?  Favorite Coe Tradition?
I really enjoy taking students to research conferences so they have the opportunity to talk to people from outside of Coe about their research. I particularly enjoy encouraging them to actively engage others in conversation about their projects. They often start out a bit apprehensive, but I promise them they will enjoy the experience more if they come out of their shell and sell what they have to say. And of course, in the end, they always admit that it’s true.

Year you started teaching at Coe:
1999

Why have you chosen to teach at Coe?
I have been at both small colleges and large universities as a student and as a member of the faculty.  Small colleges like Coe provide a much more personal experience for students and faculty, alike. When I decided on an academic career, I hoped that I would be able to find a college and colleagues like those I had known as a student at Coe. Having the opportunity to be a member of the Coe College faculty is one of the best things to ever happen to me. Like the faculty who helped me along the way, my goal is to help students achieve their own success.

 

Ben Chihak

Ben Chihak
Assistant Professor of Psychology
Email: bchihak@coe.edu

Education:
B.A., Macalester College
Ph.D., University of Minnesota

Research interests:
The ability to safely navigate through the environment is critically important to the welfare of any organism. Our ability to maneuver relative to other agents in the world allows us to find food, avoid predators, and woo potential mates. While navigating through the environment, we are constantly interacting with objects and surfaces, both static (e.g., trees, buildings, the ground plane) and motile (e.g., animals, vehicles, other people.) These objects and surfaces provide us with rich sources of information that we can use to guide our actions. My research has two fundamental goals: The first is to identify what perceptual information is available to guide locomotion in the environment. The second is to determine if and how individuals utilize these potential sources of information in controlling their actions. I have primarily investigated these questions within the context of transportation safety using both naturalistic and virtual environments.

Classes taught at Coe:
Research Methods; Introduction to Biopsychology.

Personal Interests:
I am solar-powered, requiring at least a few hours of direct sunlight each day. I most often achieve this through bicycling, backpacking, and Nordic skiing (though not necessarily at the same time.)  I enjoy cooking, gardening, creating/constructing things, and spending time with my family.

Year you started teaching at Coe: 
2017

Why have you chosen to teach at Coe?
Growing up in Cedar Rapids, Coe was my model for what “college” is.Through my early experiences on campus taking piano lessons and participating in youth academic summer programs, I encountered a community of teachers and learners in which curiosity and encouragement were valued over titles or ranks. Imagine my surprise when I went out into the world and found that not all institutions of higher learning operate with such a positive dynamic and spirit of mentorship as what I’d known at Coe. I am tremendously excited to return to this learning community as a professor, and looking forward to mentoring students and helping them achieve their educational, professional, and personal goals.

 

Wendy Dunn

Wendy Dunn
James Y. Canfield Professor of Psychology
Email: wdunn@coe.edu

Education:
B.S., Iowa State University
M.S., Iowa State University
Ph.D., University of Iowa

Research and academic interests:
My research interests concern how people make decisions about others, especially in personnel selection situations. In particular, I am interested in how personality traits, such as conscientiousness and extraversion, are judged by others as being related to performance in jobs of different types. I also investigate how other characteristics, such as physical attractiveness and intelligence, are evaluated and how they figure into decision processes.

I am the author (with Dr. Grace Craig, University of Massachusetts at Amherst) of a lifespan development textbook, Understanding Human Development, now in its fourth edition, and two introductory psychology texts, as well as an array of student study guides and instructors manuals that accompany various texts in the field of psychology.  I also serve as an ad hoc reviewer for a few journals in psychology, including Human Performance.

Classes taught at Coe:
Introductory Psychology, Applied Contemporary Psychology, Testing & Measurement; Seminar in Psychology (topics include Personnel Selection; Leadership); Advanced Experimental Psychology.

Personal interests: 
I enjoy writing, especially text books used by undergraduate students. At home, I am an avid gardener – although I admit I enjoy planting far more than weeding. My husband and I enjoy collecting a variety of things, including mid-20th century Navajo saddle blankets, cut glass, and oil paintings by obscure late-18th century Barbizon artists. I value my volunteer service in the Cedar Rapids community, and have served on several local boards of directors, including those governing Brucemore, Inc. (a property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation), the Metropolitan YMCA, the United Way of East Central Iowa, and Orchestra Iowa.  Currently I serve on the board for the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art

Favorite Coe memory? 
There are many, but one that stand out is receiving a letter of thanks from a former Coe student who is now a urologist, twenty years after his graduation, that included a copy of the letter of recommendation I wrote for him to medical school, which he had framed to sit on his desk.

Favorite Coe Tradition? 
Outdoor Commencement – which Coe started only about 20 years ago. Families can come with lawn chairs, picnic blankets, and cameras, and even young children and babies are truly welcome – it is a delightful celebration of each student’s years at Coe.  I take great joy in seeing our students, who have matured so much in the previous four years, set off into the next stage in their lives, and to meet their family members and friends. Faculty have the best seats in the house, sitting on stage as they do, looking out at the happy faces of all the gown-clad graduates and their friends and family members. It’s a happy, happy day.

Year you started teaching at Coe:
I had the great good fortune to be able to teach a few classes at Coe while I was working on my first Ph.D. at Iowa, and actually taught my first class on Coe’s Campus, which was Social Psychology, during the Summer term of 1976.  I was even more fortunate when I was offered a full-time job teaching at Coe upon the completion of my doctoral degree in the Fall of 1980, and I’ve been on the faculty since that time.

Why have you chosen to teach at Coe? 
That’s easy – it’s the students. I have stayed on the faculty at Coe because I find great personal satisfaction in the work I do with students. I’ve always enjoyed helping students explore their own interests and settle on a life direction. And, as I’m coming nearer to the end of my teaching career, I find that hearing from former students about the life and career paths they’ve chosen gives me a wonderful feeling of having been part of something meaningful. Being a college professor is a great career – I’d recommend it to anyone.

 

Sara Farrell

Sara Farrell
Associate Professor of Psychology,
Department Chair,
Organizational Science Coordinator
Email: sfarrell@coe.edu

Education:
B.A., University of Iowa
M.A., Minnesota State University
Ph.D, Northern Illinois University

Research interests:
My research centers on pro-social behaviors, especially those exhibited in the workplace (called organizational citizenship behaviors).  In the past, I have investigated co-worker reactions to employees who exhibit non-required, helpful behaviors in the workplace as well as gendered expectations for such behaviors. More recently, my students and I have been investigating factors that increase the likelihood that people will behave in pro-social ways. For example, projects have focused on whether mindfulness impacts prosocial tendencies and whether spending time in nature impacts prosocial behavior.  Another recent line of research investigates how student PsyCap (psychological capital – hope, optimism, self-efficacy, and resilience) impacts academic motivation, engagement, and achievement. I enjoy working with students on research projects that have clear applications in everyday life. It is most satisfying when students are highly engaged and especially when they risk offering challenges to our hypotheses or research designs.

Classes taught at Coe: 
Research Methods, Organizational Psychology, Industrial Psychology; Seminar in Psychology (Applied Positive Psychology); Advanced Experimental Psychology.

Personal interests:
I enjoy traveling and spending time outdoors. I have really enjoyed exploring Ireland and several other European countries - and can't wait for the next trip! Road tripping within the U.S. can be pretty exciting, too, especially when it's to a region that's new to me. During the summer, I enjoy hiking, camping, kayaking, biking, and gardening. I savor my time with those I care about most – my partner, Brian, and my kiddos Norah and Rowan.

Favorite Coe memory?  Favorite Coe Tradition?
My favorite Coe tradition is the walk that the students take as they begin their journey at Coe and again at graduation. During orientation week, students pass by the faculty on their way to ring the victory bell. Our applause is our way of welcoming to the new students to our campus. Years later, as the students walk to their seats at graduation, they again pass by the faculty. This time our applause represents our recognition of their hard work and congratulations on this important accomplishment. I love to see the excitement and pride on the faces both of the students and of the other faculty during each of these events.

Year you started teaching at Coe:
2006

Why have you chosen to teach at Coe? 
Because teaching at Coe offers me so many opportunities to develop meaningful relationships with others (definitely including students) and allows me to continue learning. Every time I teach a class, I learn more about the course topic and more about other topics that somehow intersect with the class topic. Often times, this learning comes from the interactions I have with students in the classroom. As a professor at Coe, I love that I feel so supported in continuing to learn, which in turn, helps me to be a better teacher. I enjoy being able to provide my students with a liberal arts experience and to be exposed to that experience myself, every day.

 

Scout Kelly

Scout Kelly
Assistant Professor of Psychology
Email: skelly@coe.edu

Education:
B.A., University of Puget Sound
M.A., Ph.D., Kent State University

Research interests:
At the broadest level, my research asks, why is it so difficult to do the things that we know are good for our health?--things like exercising regularly, eating healthfully, flossing our teeth, wearing sunscreen, and getting vaccinated. I’m particularly interested in health behaviors that require regular, continuous effort (e.g., physical activity, healthful eating) because they require that we self-regulate our behavior—putting off immediate rewards (e.g., ice cream, watching one more episode on Netflix) for later, larger rewards (e.g., better health and well-being). Most recently, I’ve been intrigued by the roles of flexibility and rigidity in our pursuit of health goals. When is it beneficial to make a really specific plan and stick to it no matter what (e.g., I will go to the gym for 30 minutes at 5:30pm), and when is it beneficial to be flexible and adapt our plans (e.g., if I don't have time to get to the gym, I will do a 30 minute workout video at home)

Classes taught at Coe:
Statistical Methods and Data Analysis; Social Psychology; Health Psychology; Personality; Advanced Experimental Psychology.

Personal interests: 
I love reading, yoga, knitting, modern calligraphy, making and eating ice cream, NPR, board/word/card games, a good Netflix/HBO/Hulu binge, and exploring new places.

Why have you chosen to teach at Coe? 
Coe has a vibrant and contagious energy to it—the faculty are passionate about student learning and helping students succeed in and beyond the classroom, and the students are smart, hardworking, and motivated to create a college experience that will prepare them for their best future.  Both faculty and students place great value on developing relationships—if you walk into the Psychology suite on any given day, you’ll see our office doors open and hear conversations about classes, hobbies, research, music, careers, and everything in between. We encourage, challenge, support and celebrate one another—simply put, we are a community.

 

Renee Penalver

Renee Penalver
Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology
Email: rpenalver@coe.edu

Education:
B.A., California State University, Bakersfield 
M.A.,  University of Texas El Paso
Ph.D., University of Texas El Paso

Research interests:  
I am a cognitive psychologist interested in how the bilingual experience impacts different types of memory. In my current research, I investigate how word frequency, and bilingual language proficiency impact source memory. Source memory is a type of explicit memory that is memory for context associated with an event (e.g., time, space, people, sounds, feelings). Similarly, I have investigated the effects of the bilingual experience on implicit memory. Implicit memory is memory that is automatic. I have also investigated other types of cognition (attention) and how it is impacted by bilingualism.

Classes taught at Coe:
Introductory Psychology;Abnormal Psychology; Statistical Methods and Data Analysis.

Personal interests: 
I love spending time with family, friends, and my doggies. My doggies are like my children! I love going to live music concerts and art shows. Some of my favorite bands are: Modest Mouse, Strfr, The Strokes, and Interpol. I love teaching! Teaching sets my soul on fire. I am from California, and lived in Texas for a large part of my adult life; traveling to California, Texas, and exploring other parts of the world are a must. I shop too much, and always have a coke zero in hand.

Why have you chosen to teach at Coe? 
I have chosen to teach at Coe because I am excited to be at a place where students and faculty alike respect each other, and have a strong sense of community. Coe is a place where there is a smile and helping hand at every corner. The faculty and students at Coe are extremely knowledgeable and intelligent, but more important they are kind, and they are thoughtful. It is so important to me that my interactions with students are meaningful, and I am so excited to be starting my career at a college that is so student centered and focused!

 

Kara Recker

Kara Recker
Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology
Email: krecker@coe.edu

Education:
B.S., Arizona State University
Ph.D., University of Iowa

Research interests: 
My research focuses on two fundamental aspects of cognitive development. The first is how young children scale distance across spaces that differ in size. The aim of this work is to better understand the factors that affect how children and adults use relative distance to scale location. My second area of interest is the development of memory for location. Specifically, I am interested in how children and adults use spatial groups to remember the locations of objects. In both of these areas of interest, my goal is to examine the processes by which age differences in spatial thinking emerge. This kind of analysis requires understanding both what the child (or adult) brings to the task and what environmental structure is available. As such, my theoretical approach emphasizes the dynamic, emergent properties of spatial thinking.

Classes taught at Coe: 
Introductory Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Seminar in Psychology (Infant Development), Abnormal Psychology.

Personal Interests: 
My husband and I keep busy at home with our three young children! We love attending events in our community and cheering on the Hawkeyes. When we can manage to get some time to ourselves, we enjoy outdoor concerts, having dinner and drinks on the patio, and getting together with friends. Our families are both in Iowa and our kids love the opportunity to spend time with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

Why have you chosen to teach at Coe? 
I attended a very large university and realized during graduate school that my philosophy on teaching was better suited at a smaller college. I love and value working in an environment aimed at enriching the lives of my students. Our students put a smile on my face every day and I’m grateful to be at Coe to mentor them on their journey in life.

 

Benjamin Tallman

Benjamin Tallman
Assistant Professor of Psychology
Email: btallman@coe.edu

Education:
B.A., Coe College
Ph.D., University of Iowa

Research interests:
My research interests fall broadly within the area of Health Psychology/Behavioral Medicine and examining health related-quality of life variables among individuals dealing with acute or chronic medical concerns. I have a specific interest in Positive Psychology, including how individuals experience posttraumatic growth following traumatic life events such as cancer.

Clinical interests:
My clinical practice falls within the field of Rehabilitation Psychology and working with individuals who have experienced complex medical conditions including traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, stroke, traumatic/non-traumatic amputation, burns, cancer, and other neurologic conditions. I also enjoy working with patients with chronic pain concerns using various treatment modalities such as cognitive-behavioral interventions, biofeedback, and clinical hypnosis.

Classes taught at Coe:
Introductory Psychology; Abnormal Psychology; Psychological Testing and Measurement; Statistical Methods & Data Analysis; Seminar in Psychology (Rehabilitation Psychology and Principles of Behavioral Medicine); Health Psychology;  Counseling Psychology; Advanced Experimental Psychology

Personal interests: 
Fishing; kayaking rivers/streams in Northeast Iowa; anything outdoors; running; Hawkeye football and attending games at Kinnick Stadium; cooking/grilling; gardening/canning veggies; traveling to Brazil with my wife.

Favorite Coe memory? Favorite Coe Tradition? 
At the end of the semester I take advanced students in upper-level psychology courses out for dinner to celebrate the completion of the semester. I have found this to be a great capstone experience for students and myself to share stories about the course, students' future plans, and other important life events. This is also an opportunity for me to show my appreciation to students who have worked so hard throughout the semester. It's a great way to end the year!

Year you started teaching at Coe: 
2014

Why have you chosen to teach at Coe? 
As a Coe graduate I experienced firsthand the powerful impact and multitude of benefits that a liberal arts education can provide.  Having the opportunity to come back to Coe to educate and mentor bright and intellectually gifted students is truly rewarding. Coe students go on to do wonderful things in life. For me personally it is extremely gratifying and energizing to work in a rich, student-centered environment where there are numerous opportunities for academic, personal, and professional growth.

 

Nukhet Yarbrough

Nükhet Yarbrough
Stead Family Professor of Psychology
Email: nyarbrou@coe.edu

Education:
B.A., Lindenwood College
M.A., Boğazici University, Istanbul, Turkey
Ph.D., University of Georgia

Research interests:
I came to graduate school in the United States to study with Dr. Paul Torrance, internationally known for his research and tests on creative thinking. My research at Coe focused primarily on the investigations of how creative thinking test scores relate to other psychological and practical human characteristics. Over the years I looked at short term memory capacity and long term memory access as measured on computer tasks to millisecond accuracy in high and low scorers on the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking. In addition, I developed an instrument to measure tolerance for ambiguity in high and low scorers of creative thinking. This line of research yielded a number of conference papers with our students. I even took one of our students to a World Conference on creativity in Istanbul, my native city. Currently I am engaged in an international norming study for the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking that I am hoping will interest some of my students who like to travel.

Classes taught at Coe:
I teach Memory & Cognition, Memory & Cognition Laboratory, Counseling Psychology, Statistical Methods and Data Analysis, Seminar in Psychology (previous topics: Creativity; Cross-Cultural Psychology), Advanced Experimental Psychology. Occasional courses on Turkey.

Special programs involved with at Coe: 
I chair the Institutional Review Board.

Personal interests: 
I love to cook! I sometimes read cookbooks for pleasure. Travelling, finding secluded bays to go swimming in Western Turkey, hiking, and kayaking are also my favorites.

Favorite Coe memory?  Favorite Coe Tradition? 
Every Spring I look forward to our Psychology Research Symposium where our students present their research and then join us for a dinner in one of our homes. It is a wonderful celebration of their hard work. It’s my favorite tradition. A favorite memory is when we held a reception at the Midwestern Psychological Association Conference one year, and a number of our alumni, some of whom were faculty members or graduate students, showed up. Having our current and former students in one place was such a treat!

Year you started teaching at Coe: 
1985

Why have you chosen to teach at Coe? 
I am the product of a liberal arts institution, and value the close student-faculty collaboration and the growth that comes from it. Although I wanted to teach at a liberal arts college, I did not know when I took this position that I would like Coe so much that I would want to stay here till I retire.  We have students and faculty from all over the world making this a very stimulating and interesting place, but most importantly, I found Coe to be a very supportive place where we can all learn together.